New 111 non-emergency healthcare phone number confirmed

News release published 18|12|09

18 December 2009

Ofcom today confirmed that it will allocate a new memorable three-digit phone number - 111 - for NHS non-emergency healthcare services. This will enable the Department of Health to introduce the service to make it easier for patients to access healthcare in their local area.

Ofcom also confirmed that the Department of Health intends that calls to the number will be free.

Every year Ofcom allocates millions of telephone numbers to communications providers for homes, businesses and organisations to use. The Department of Health asked Ofcom to decide how to allocate 111 for this special purpose.

Ofcom's statement explains how making 111 available will make the best use of the UK's telephone number resource.

The Department of Health intends for the service to provide advice and information to the public when they need medical help urgently but the situation is not life-threatening.

Ofcom's statement on 111 can be found at: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/three_number_non_emergency/statement/

*999 or 112 will continue to be the number to call in an emergency situation (both numbers provide access to the emergency services in the UK).

Ends.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. Under section 63 of the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom has a duty to ensure that the best use is made of the UK's telephone number resource.

2. The Department of Health intends to pilot the number in England in 2010 for 12 months and, subject to evaluation, expects to roll out the service following these pilots.

3. Health authorities in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales may consider whether to introduce the 111 service following the outcome of the pilots in England next year.